After a record-breaking season this year for the Yale women’s swimming and diving team, our actions — undeniable athletic and academic achievement — should have spoken louder than our words. Clearly they have not.
We hope that by shedding light on our experiences as student-athletes, we may illustrate how fiercely ingrained athletics are in Yale’s values. It is clear that “outstanding practice” and “all sectors” of society — as articulated in Yale’s official mission statement — refer not only to academia, but also other pursuits — including athletics.
In fact, the Ivy League was originally founded in 1954 as an athletic conference, united by a common commitment to academic excellence. This heritage is very much alive today — Yale has proven throughout the years that it is possible for academics and athletics to converge at the pinnacle of excellence, without one compromising the other. It is expected, if not given, that athletes will excel in both their sport and in school. Yale allocates no shortcuts to athletes in return for the 20-plus hours a week they dedicate to their sports and teams. Athletes take the same number of credits, adhere to the same major requirements and receive no additional academic support than that offered to any other student.
We have seen all our members of Yale Women’s Swim and Dive team wholly embrace this challenge: 17 of our 35 women are studying engineering, economics and mathematics, computer science, applied math, neuroscience, biology, environmental studies and completing pre-med requirements, while the other half are pursuing degrees in the humanities, ranging from history to architecture to political science. Our fall semester team average GPA of 3.60 — earned despite the end of the semester coinciding with one of our most difficult rounds of training — was the 12th-highest among all NCAA Division I women’s teams across the nation. Last spring, seven of our teammates — one fifth of the team— earned perfect 4.0 GPAs.
This standard of success ripples into the pool. This year, we defeated the seven other Ivies to capture the Ivy League Championship Title for the first time in 20 years, breaking 12 Yale and five Ivy League records in the process. We capped off the season ranked 26th in the nation.
Much of this success is owed to athletic recruitment and the fact that Yale reserves official spots for athletes. In the face of increasingly competitive college applications, Yale must select students from an overabundance of qualified candidates. It’s entirely conceivable that Yale could fill several distinct classes every year, each composed of equally deserving men and women. By virtue of this phenomenon, recruiting slots become ever more vital to upholding the storied traditions of Yale’s athletic teams. They provide our athletes and coaches the assurance that come admissions decisions in March, the quest for school glory and Ivy League titles will not hinge on the luck of the draw.
Two of the three authors of this piece are walk-ons to YWSWD. Over the past six semesters, we have seen our recruited teammates navigate Yale as competently, or more competently, than we have. The insolent claim that they do not deserve to be here simply because they were recruited is blatantly unfounded and, quite frankly, tinged with elitism. The standards defined by the admissions office guarantee that the women we recruit have the academic drive and rigor to succeed at Yale. Additionally, Yale does not grant athletic scholarships, which means that our swimmers often end up turning down full or partial scholarships to other schools. Each of us, walk-on and recruited athlete alike, chose Yale for the unparalleled opportunity to swim for a distinguished team while pursuing a world-class education — not one over the other.
To all of us, this sort of triumph and achievement is what the Yale mission expounds.
Cheryl Xiang is a junior in Saybrook College. Alexa Kalandiak is a junior in Ezra Stiles College. Paulina Kaminski is a junior in Davenport College. All three are members of the Yale Women’s Swim and Dive team. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org .